Tuesday 30 March 2021


 I recently completed the UK census form and there were two question missing that I think should have been included. Firstly "Do you like the ewoks?" A much smaller survey suggests that there's a positive correlation between the answer to that question and date of birth. I believe that the line crosses from dislike, through indifference to like some time in the mid 70s.

The other question is "which shop sells the best pasties?".

When I was a child the answer was clearly Ivor Dewdney. It was a difficult an eye opening day in the early noughties when I had to admit that Oggy Oggy was better. It happened so slowly that I never noticed that Ivor Dewdney pasties had got soggy, greasy and insipid, and I would never have changed my allegiance. I was in the city centre having lunch with a girl I had just stated going out with and she went to the "wrong" pasty shop as though it were the most natural thing in the world - and she turned out to be right.

An even worse experience for pasties than choosing the wrong shop is to move away from Plymouth. My oldest friend studied in the East Midlands and told me about his delight (followed by horror) when he found a bakery selling "pasties" which turned out to be shortcrust monstrosities, crimped along the top and containing mince and carrots! He now lives in the South East and while you can buy a pasty there they're neither good, ubiquitous or convenient and they're priced as though they're an exotic luxury from a far-off land.

Richard "maybe it was a cocktail pasty from a giant's buffet" B

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Washer Bottle Slime

 This week I want to talk about an affliction that nobody ever mentions. I don't know if it's because it's so rare or so shameful, but other than myself, I only know a couple of people who have suffered with "washer bottle slime". The windscreen washer jets in your car deteriorate and then eventually fail, and when you find the blockage it's a mass of sludgy slime in the washer bottle.

I first came across this problem in my mum's Ford Fiesta Mk3. The slime was blue/green in colour and we assumed it was caused by an incompatibility between detergent based screenwash and alcohol based winter screenwash. Just recently I had to take the washer bottle out of my Hyundai i40 for the same reason. It was blocked with grey/green slime and I did start to wonder if it was alive. I once bought a Landrover Discovery and one of the conditions of sale was that the washer bottle be disinfected. The screen wash jets produced such an unpleasant smell that there was a serious disincentive to using them.

Richard "screenwash" B

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Fuel hose

 When I watched the Netflix documentary "Black Fish" I was darkly amused to find out just how naughty a disgruntled killer whale can be - it will bite and drown its keepers.

The family lawnmower turned just as malevolent last week when it tried to set me on fire. It leaked a good quantity of petrol onto the bottom of my jeans, but thankfully it didn't manage to set light to it. I barely remember it, but I think the fuel cock was replaced in the 80s. The replacement either came from the chandlers or my dad's stock of parts. Either way it has a bore and a flow rate more suited to an ocean-going vessel and I think it's made of bronze. The spigot is stubby, larger than 5/16 and doesn't have a lead or ring-barbs. The original carburettor had a 5/16 spigot and an integral filter gauze. You could just make the connection with a length of 5/16 fuel hose if you warmed it up and stretched it over the fuel cock. I changed the carburettor last year and the new one has a 6mm spigot pointing in the wrong direction and no filter. Last year I used a length of rubber hose, some elbows and an inline filter from a Chinese dirt bike. This year the hose had got so brittle that it leaked around every joint and spilled a load of petrol onto my trousers.

This lawnmower has become a superstition to me and a labour of love so I have spent a good bit of time, effort and money on the fuel feed system. There's now a short length of 5/16 hose going into a nylon 8mm->6mm reducing elbow, then a length of genuine tygon 1/4 hose, then a low displacement filter with a sintered brass ball mesh, then another length of tygon, then another elbow then tygon into the carb. The whole thing doesn't hold much more than a teaspoon of fuel and it's all bone dry on the outside.

Richard "no smoking" B

Saturday 13 March 2021

Hyundai i40 washer bottle removal

 The washer bottle is accessed from the RHS front wheel well. You need to jack the car and take the wheel off.

The wheel arch liner liner is held on by expanding plastic clips.You do not need to take the whole liner out. I just took out the clips from the front half and bent it out of the way.

There's a guy who keeps showing up on the forums saying that this job is better tackled from the top by taking the headlight out. Having found the fasteners, I'm pretty sure he's wrong.

 There is 1 large phillips screw and two 10mm hex screws. The front 10mm screw is a twin to the one shown in the photo. You will need a small ratchet to get to it and you will need the patience of a saint to thread it in when you put it all back together.

The pump will pull out of the bottle if you push the clip up out of the way. You will get wet as all the screenwash drains out of the bottle. There is an electrical connector (not shown) on the bottom of the bottle for the level sensor. I didn't take the pump out of the car because the hoses were old and brittle and I didn't want to damage them. The wiring and the hoses clip to the side of the bottle (on the right of the photo). The wiring also clips to the top of the bottle in 2 places. It took some deft work with as long screwdriver to free it.

The pump has as filter gauze in its inlet. You can prise this out of the pump with a knife or a thin screwdriver.

Richard "Haynes" B

Wednesday 10 March 2021


 Contains distasteful imagery and bodily functions. You should probably stop reading now.

Last week I had a luxurious night of sleep. I turned the mattress, I made the bed with freshly ironed linen, and I wore brand new pyjamas (button up jacket with a club collar and patch pocket, straight leg trousers with elasticated waist and one button fly).

In the morning I had great difficult in the lavatory. My arse had become impossible to wipe. The paper kept coming back torn or crumpled, there was an unpleasant stickiness, and I was making slow progress on cleanliness. Had I somehow sat in treacle without knowing it? Had a hive of bees moved in to my lower digestive tract and started producing honey up there? Was I going to stand up with the job half done and go and get a mirror on a stick? Give up and step into the shower?

I persevered and eventually discovered that a sticky label about flame retardant quality, presumably from my pyjamas, had got stuck to the crack of my arse.

Richard "now wash your hands" B

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Jigsaw Puzzle

I have been doing a jigsaw puzzle. It's a picture of a nebula in deep space taken by the Hubble space telescope. About a quarter of the pieces are either pitch black or very dark grey. I have had to set up a lighting rig and use magnifiers to help determine if pieces are in the right place. I have also been trying to speed up my progress by using information theory and statistics.

To find a piece that fits as quickly as possible you need to reduce the set of contenders as much as you can. Ordinarily you'd look for something "roughly the right colour" but that didn't help me at all. To start with I divided the pieces into 4 hash buckets: 1 head; 2 heads on an axis; 2 heads on adjacent sides; 3 heads. Interestingly there were no pieces with 0 or 4 heads. I soon noticed that the pieces were wider than they were tall and I divided the hash buckets even further: 1 head on a vertical axis; 1 head on a horizontal axis; 2 heads on the vertical; 2 heads on the horizontal; 2 adjacent heads on an L bend; 2 adjacent heads on a J bend; 3 heads vertical; 3 heads horizontal. In some cases this narrowed down the set of pieces which might fit to a few dozen or a mere handful.

I also noticed that the cleave lines generally alternated whether the heads went left or right (up/down for horizontal cleave lines) and nowhere on the part of the puzzle I had completed were there more than 2 adjacent heads in the same direction. This meant that in could make much better guesses about what shaped piece I was looking for and in some places I knew for sure what all 4 sides would look like even though I only had 2 to work from.

I'm always disappointed and cross when a database says "fuck it, I'll just compare every single combination of rows and see which ones match (it would probably phrase it as ->  Nested Loop  (cost=388.64..105744.98 rows=6645 width=13) (actual time=0.341..27.475 rows=5000 loops=4) ) but in many places in my jigsaw I did resign myself to trying every single piece that was left to see what would fit.

Richard "Cinderella" B